Introduction to the draft River Basin Management Plan 2022-2027

The aim of the River Basin Management Plan is to ensure that our natural waters are sustainably managed, that freshwater resources are protected so that there is no further deterioration; and where required, Ireland’s rivers, lakes and coastal water bodies are restored to good ecological status.

Current status:

  • 1,983 of Ireland’s 4,832 water bodies are Not at Risk that is meeting good ecological status and these water bodies need protection measures to ensure there is no further deterioration.
  • 1,603 are At Risk of not meeting their environmental objectives which means they need restoration measures.
  • 1,256 water bodies are In Review which means that
    • (a) there is inadequate evidence to determine status or
    • (b) that measures have been put place for improvement but these have not been realised yet.

Agriculture is the most common significant pressure, impacting on 1000 water bodies, followed by hydromorphology (drainage and habitat change) and forestry is a significant pressure in 233 water bodies. Urban waste water is the significant pressure in 208 water bodies which marks a decrease by 83 water bodies since the beginning of the 2nd cycle.

Protection measures

A strong enforcement regime will be implemented in all areas but will be prioritised in At Risk waterbodies. Land use change and new developments will be appropriately assessed for their impacts on water quality. Statutory measures will be assessed for their effectiveness. Additionally, 46 catchment plans will be developed as sub-plans to the national Plan. These will be supported by County-level Implementation Plans which will assess measures. These plans will be supported by awareness and education initiatives through to norms and enforcement. Activation, development and support will be provided to local initiatives such as catchment trusts and partnerships.

Restoration measures

A wider selection of Areas for Action has been proposed in this Plan (Figure 18) with 527 areas selected for focused attention in the third cycle. 427 of these require restoration measures; 85 require dedicated protection measures and 15 have ongoing catchment projects aimed at improving water quality. Each Area for Action has a dedicated lead organisation such as the Local Authority Waters Programme, Local Authorities, National Federation of Group water Schemes, Inland Fisheries Ireland.

Agricultural pressures will be addressed through a more effective Nitrates Action Programme including tighter controls on nitrogen inputs, the establishment of a chemical fertiliser register and improved enforcement and compliance of Nitrates Regulations.

Urban Waste Water will be addressed through greater investment in waste water infrastructure, with Irish Water expected to invest approximately €1.022 billion in 83 wastewater treatment plants and 10 collection networks over the period 2020-2024   Irish Water aims to deliver 10 waste water treatment plant projects whose discharges have been identified as being significant pressures on receiving water bodies and early-stage studies for a further 20 waste water treatment plant projects will be completed through funding from the European Union’s Recovery and Resilience Facility.

There is a 6 month public consultation on the draft plan until March 31, 2022.

Further information is available at:  www.gov.ie   Consultation

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